It’s going to sound like I’m picking on Matt Moscona here, because this post is a response of sorts to a column Moscona wrote for GridironNow.com that was quite good.
But his headline doesn’t quite satisfy: Firing Les Miles was the right move, but that doesn’t make it fair.
A good excerpt…
Making the move now has several advantages as opposed to waiting until the end of the season, or after more embarrassing losses. By putting Ed Orgeron in place now, it will certainly energize the fan base in advance of a winnable home game against Missouri. Asking Orgeron to debut on the road against Florida, against his former school Ole Miss or tough games against Alabama or Arkansas would be akin to asking him to fall on the sword for the season.
And while it seems like an impossible thought, LSU still controls its destiny in the SEC race. Nobody should predict a championship from this team, but the talent is there to make it interesting if they decide they want to play out the string.
Looking beyond 2016 – which practically everyone not currently on the LSU staff began doing while walking out of Lambeau Field three weeks ago – LSU now has a jump start on every other major program that might be making a move. Joe Alleva can gauge Tom Herman’s interest or ask if David Shaw would be willing to leave the West Coast. If they dare dance with Jimbo Fisher and super-agent jimmy Sexton again, there now are months to vet that possibility as opposed to days or weeks. Essentially, the disorganization that led to last November’s national embarrassment should not be an excuse this time around.
And an excerpt which isn’t quite as good…
It is just not fair for a good man and a legendary coach who deserved much better. But as we all know, life is not fair.
Actually, it’s extremely fair.
Miles held onto his job after November on the strength of a promise he made to modernize his offense, and that promise turned out to be a lie. When Alleva announced in November that Miles would be returning to LSU for the 2016 season, he noted that offensive improvement was crucial to the coach’s future success – to such an extent as to imply (and “imply” isn’t really a strong enough word) that an offensive overhaul was a condition of his future employment.
And what did Miles do with that condition? On the night he was granted a reprieve he disparaged the idea of change, suggesting that since Leonard Fournette was the “engine” of the offense there was nothing wrong with the engine.
He then made no real changes to his offensive staff. Dameyune Craig was brought in as the new wide receivers coach after Tony Ball was let go, and that seems to have been an improvement of sorts. Jabbar Juluke was hired as the running backs coach to replace Frank Wilson, whose timing in taking the head coaching job at Texas-San Antonio turned out to be impeccable. But the main problem with the offense from the perspective of many was Cam Cameron, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who had done an exceedingly poor job with playcalling and design of the offense, particularly the passing game, and had been woeful in his development of quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris in 2014 and 2015. Cameron was retained, which was an unpleasant surprise to many fans.
It was therefore little surprise, once preseason hype and the eternal optimism of fans could be discounted, that when LSU took the field for the season opener in Wisconsin the offense continued to be outdated, predictable, poorly executed and easily defended against. In four games against opponents unranked at the time of playing them, LSU is averaging a ho-hum 21 points per game, a slim 339.5 yards per game, a terrible 147.8 passing yards per game, a paltry 17 first downs per game and an inexplicable 59 plays per game at a time when 80 offensive snaps seems to be the benchmark for quality offenses in college football.
And LSU hasn’t scored a single point in the fourth quarter of any of their four games.
Remember, improvement of the offense was a condition of not firing Miles in November of 2015. Things have gotten worse despite returning Fournette and seven other starters.
The firing can’t have been much of a surprise to anyone. When your boss makes a demand for improvement of a key area of your performance and you agree to the demand but don’t produce the improvement, you will be terminated. It doesn’t get any more fair than that.
In his case he’s not fired for cause, he’s being paid a king’s ransom of a buyout. Which is also fair, since in doing so LSU is satisfying the terms of its contract with him.
None of this is to advocate anyone attack Miles, or disparage some of the excellent work he’s done over a career in Baton Rouge in which he amassed a stellar 114-34 record. History will remember his time at LSU fondly, and he leaves behind a program which, though it will dispatch a fairly large number of players to the NFL after this year, is still loaded with talent. The last four recruiting classes Miles has taken have all been ranked no lower than 6th nationally, and the 20-member class currently committed ranks in the top four. Couple that with a coaching staff containing some very high-profile members, many of whom are elite recruiters, that a new coach can choose to retain if he wishes, an elite set of facilities, a recruiting base to rival any in the country and the prestige of one of the most high-profile programs in the country, and Miles’ legacy should be safe in the hands of a highly-capable successor.
His ouster at LSU, which even he agreed when speaking to his team Sunday afternoon was due, shouldn’t be a bitter one. Miles had 11 good years at the top of his profession before some key mistakes – we all make them eventually – did him in. LSU is paying him his money and wishing him well, and he’ll likely spend the rest of his days as a popular figure, and a celebrity, in Baton Rouge. That’s a good fate, and a fair one.